We have now completed the second level of the Training Pyramid Program.  We have covered the commands and concepts of “Land Marks with Multiple Guns, Introduction to Birds, Introduction to Water, Puppy Hand Thrown Retrieves, Puppy Retrieves from Gun Stations or Remote Throwers, and Introduction to Gunfire and Puppy Doubles.

We have a dog whose value is climbing and we are becoming attached to it.  Perhaps now would be a good time to examine ways to decrease the chances of our pup becoming injured.  One condition that afflicts young dogs is Osteochondritis Dissecans.  This injury can occur in many joints of the body but we will concentrate on the shoulder.  If a puppy is allowed to jump from the crate to the ground out of a car or truck, trauma is conveyed to the shoulder joint.  The proximal aspect of the humerus is forced into the glenoid fossa of the scapula.  This can lead to a piece of cartilage from the head of the humerus avulsing from the bone. Avulsion occurs when the ligament or tendon does not tear but pulls a piece of bone or cartilage away from its attachment to the main portion of the bone.  The piece of cartilage floating around in the shoulder joint is referred to as a “Joint Mouse”.  Lameness will occur and the dog will sit with that foreleg held in a flexed position.  This injury can be prevented by lifting the pup in and out of the crate or with the use of a ramp.

The second major injury that can occur is a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL).  The ACL is the main ligament holding the knee together.  When God made the dog, he designed the hip joint at 10:00 AM on a Wednesday.  He was just about to go home when an angel said “God you have yet to design a knee joint or as it is called, the stifle.”  Unfortunately it was 4:55PM on a Friday and God was in a hurry.  He took a roll of duct tape and changed it into dense connective tissue we call ligaments.  He slapped them onto the distal end of the femur and the proximal end of the tibia and called it good.  It is an inferior joint and one that is subject to injury.  One way to avoid injury to the ACL is to shun training areas that may cause this injury.  Good trainers will walk out into Denverton and look for significant cracks in the peat soil.  Another danger zone are ponds with sticky mud.  The pulling of the leg out of this glop can cause the ACL to avulse from the crest of the tibia.  If you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of discovering that your dog has ruptured his ACL, call Drs. Cal and Robin Cadmus in Oakdale.  That’s what I did after I was stupid enough to run my dog through a pond that had been frequented by cattle.  The cattle left deep hoof prints in the mud as the pond dried and receded, the perfect storm for destroying her cruciate was created.

This same quagmire can also damage the Achilles tendon.  The same stress can pull the tendon of the gastrocnemius off its insertion to the talus bone (Heel bone).  The difference between a tendon and a ligament is that a tendon attaches a muscle to a bone, a ligament attaches bone to bone.  Where one begins is called the origin and where it attaches is referred to as the insertion.

Hip Dysplasia (HD) is the bane of many dogs especially retrievers.  HD has two components of its origin, genetic and environmental.  The genetic portion we deal with by radiographing the sire and dam and looking for past generations to be clear of this disease.  The environmental portion of the abnormal confirmation of the Hip to Femur (coxo-femoral) joint can be attenuated by diet.  A large group of genetically similar German Shepherds were divided into two groups as young puppies.  One group was kept quite thin during their development into adult hood while the other group were allowed to become roly poly.  The statistical difference was startling.  Fat pups = dogs with Hip Dysplasia.

The topic of Foxtails takes me to a quandary.  I was able to put my children through elite private eastern colleges because of this hideous plant.  As a veterinarian I hate them as much as any dog trainer. They are elusive and almost impossible to remove in some circumstances. “Jessie” was out in a field one day and no foxtails were obvious.  Her owner was very careful in selecting which field or marsh on which to train.   Jessie still managed to inhaled one, developed pneumonia and had to have a portion of her lung removed. The best advice I can give is to avoid this nasty invasive introduced weed.

Pups can be taught to avoid another hazard in the field, Rattlesnakes.  I have put on a rattlesnake clinic every year and also give the rattlesnake vaccine.  The vaccine only gives partial immunity against the venom of the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.  The rattlesnake avoidance lesson only takes about 15 seconds and is very effective.

Put someone in a chair in an open area.  Fasten a heavy fishing line to the rattles of the beheaded rattlesnake.  Coil the snake into a striking position and put the tip of the fishing rod right down to the rattles.  Have the handler approach from the downwind side.  The dog should not be on a leash, we want this confutation to be between the dog and the snake.  The handler should not make any attempt to make the dog heel or any other command.  As the pair approachs the snake wrangler, the dog can now use all its senses.  The rod tip should be vibrating as fast as possible to make the characteristic buzzing sound.  The dog can see, hear, and smell the snake.  A perfect lesson occurs when the pup approaches the snake and puts its nose on it to explore this new find.  At that exact moment, the handler should push the button on the e-collar set on a very high level just as the snake wrangler flips the tip of the rod causing the snake to mimic a strike. I have never seen a pup come back for a second helping of this dish.

Happy Training

John Schulte DVM